Next TOC Last Juvenile Justice in California: Facts & Issues
Prepared by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, Juvenile Justice Study Committee. September 1996.

Detention Programs

On a typical day in 1994, youthful offenders were housed in these facilities:
    6,000 Juvenile hall, before and after adjudication
    3,600 County-run camps and ranches
    9,000 CYA institutions
    18,000 Total
Source: CYA, Population Summary Reports: CA Juvenile Hall and CA Juvenile Camps and Ranches

California has the highest rate of incarceration of youth of any state in the country. While the national rate of juveniles in custody in 1991 was 221 per 100,000 juveniles, California's rate was 492. CYA contributes to California's high custody count more by average length of stay than volume of new admissions. <50> California has the longest length of stay by juveniles correction institutions. <51>

The LAO notes that:

Given the currently available facilities, overcrowding is due to two factors. The first is the growth of the state's juvenile population. The second is increasing lengths of stay by juveniles in these facilities. Lengths of stay are increasing for two reasons: (1) wards are being admitted for more serious crimes and (2) overcrowding limits the Youth Authority's ability to ensure that wards get needed program services. When a ward cannot get required program services, he or she is not paroled, thereby staying longer in youth authority facilities. <52>

The Little Hoover Commission recommends adoption of legislation precluding the YOPB from adding time to a ward's commitment stay solely because programming has been unavailable. <53>

The Little Hoover Commission found that those who work in the CYA institutions and those who are critical observers believe the CYA's ability to provide appropriate treatment, education and training to juveniles has decreased markedly. Budget cuts appear to be largely responsible. Although the State has few resources available to change the situation, the prospects for juveniles to be rehabilitated, deterred from crime and equipped for productive lives depend on the ability of policy makers to find creative reforms that can change priorities and commitment patterns. <54>

Pedro Noguera, notes that most of the detention centers are tough, violent places. Since 1981, the number of cases of battery without a weapon committed against incarcerated youth in facilities managed by the CYA has increased steadily. Juvenile convicts, the vast majority of whom are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses are compelled to contend with this pervasive violence much of which is due to widespread gang activity. <55> See also charts in the Little Hoover Commission Report. <56>




Source: Legislative Analyst's Office, Juvenile Crime: Outlook for California, 52,51.

By the end of 1995, there were approximately 9,900 youthful offenders housed in CYA institutions and camps, with an average length of stay of 25.4 months. <57> The average cost per ward in the CYA is $32,000, compared to $22,000 per inmate in the Corrections Department. <58> Counties are required to pay the state $150 per month for each ward committed to CYA.

Juvenile probation camps and ranches are generally short-term programs of 3 - 6 months and provide educational services, counseling, and a variety of vocational training, work experience and recreational programs. Some counties contract with other counties for camp programs. Los Angeles County has over half of the camp capacity in California with 19 camps and an average stay of 6 months. Each year as state assistance for camps falls into question, the continuation of operation of these facilities is threatened.

Currently, counties with limited or no local punishment facilities send to CYA

... a disproportionate number of minors convicted of less serious offenses. For example, some counties send more than ten out of every 100 felony juvenile arrests to CYA, less than half of whom have been convicted of a serious crime. Other counties, however, send less that ten of every 100 felony juvenile arrests, at least 2/3 of whom have been convicted of a serious crime. <59>

Rehabilitation Programs

Although California has some excellent rehabilitation programs at the CYA and county level, many programs cannot serve all juveniles who need their services. Some Youth Authority programs may not be offered at every institution or on a pilot basis only. Youths must apply and qualify for limited spots in certain vocational programs.

Substance Abuse Programs: Leadership, Esteem, Ability, Discipline (LEAD) based on a military model with platoons of 15, features strict physical activity, education, drug treatment, and an intensive parole component. Although the majority of wards have some substance abuse problems, the LEAD program admits only 15 per month.

A CYA Alternative to Institutionalization for parole violator/drug offenders operates in both northern and southern California, but the combined program handles about 100 wards.

Free Venture: Employment opportunities were available in only 4 CYA institutions in 1995. Cya was the first state-wide youth correctional agency to become partners with private industry to provide training and meaningful emp[loyment for incarcerated wards. Wards are employed by companies in the partnership, and pay taxes, restitution to the crime victims fund (15 percent of wages), reimbursement to the state for room and board (20 percent after taxes and restitution), and 40 percent is kept in a savings account for when they return to their communities. As of December 31, 1995, 115 wards were involved in the program at 4 facilities. <60>

A growing, but limited, number of California youth are being placed in private programs as a last chance alternative to the CYA. Among these are: the Arizona Boys Ranch, the Rites of Passage in Nevada, and Glen Mills School in Pennsylvania. A Colorado program emphasizes substance abuse treatment for girls. These programs are generally non-profit and operate outside of California because of problems with California's laws governing group homes. Their aim is primarily rehabilitation rather than confinement as the youth has been removed from his local community. They provide a range of programs to foster positive behaviors. Rite of Passage students progress through three levels from remote separation, to residential high school, and gradual movement to transitional group homes. The program is committed to ensuring that their graduates do not fail after graduation by serving them in an aftercare program.


1, The boot-camp approach is a style of incarceration being considered. Some feel that a get- tough approach is a good solution to problems with undisciplined kids. It gets their attention and focuses on a change in behavior. But some probation officials interviewed as a part of this study are concerned that the confrontational, aggressive discipline of the boot-camp style program will result in negative, confrontational behavior of the graduates when they return home if they have no aftercare supervision or services.

2. Youngsters with mental health needs who are assaultive or disrupt a program require a structured environment in a therapeutic setting. For lack of a better option, these out-of-control youths are frequently charged with assault and placed in a correctional facility. Better assessment and placement options need to be provided.

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Prepared by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, Juvenile Justice Study Committee. September 1996.